Sparks Hello Young Lovers

Much like the Velvet Underground during their run, Sparks have been making music that has incessantly challenged the notion of pop experimentalism, while only managing to find a cult following despite a handful of great singles and albums in their time. The biggest problem the team of Ron and Russell Mael face though is that they’ve been unappreciated for 35 years — about five times the Velvets’ life. Yet here they are, in their fourth decade with their 20th album, Hello Young Lovers, which is a spot on example of the Sparks aesthetic. Continuing the classical orchestration of 2002’s Lil’ Beethoven, the Maels sugarcoat gratuitous, often absurd lyrics with some of their most stunning instrumental compositions to date. Too smart for their own good (one of their biggest drawbacks for the unconverted), the duo comment on over-extravagance on "Perfume,” a satirical love song that names off love interests and their choice of fragrance. "(Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country” follows a similar path, disguising a hook-filled request to raid territories with the utmost charm. It’s far from easy listening though; "Here Kitty” really pushes the envelope with plenty of "miaows” sampled throughout, but it’s nothing Sparks fans haven’t come to accept and even grow to love. Let’s hope soon, one of these days Sparks will get their just desserts like the Velvets, because Hello Young Lovers and the rest of their catalogue of wacky and sublime pop music is a sunken treasure just waiting to be discovered. (In The Red)